TMJ Dysfunction

TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorders are a family of problems related to your complex jaw joint. If you experience pain or a clicking sound, when you eat, you’ll be glad to know that TMJ dysfunction can be diagnosed and treated. These symptoms occur when the joints of the jaw and the chewing muscles (muscles of mastication) function improperly. Since some types of TMJ problems can lead to more serious conditions, early detection and treatment are imperative.

No single treatment can resolve TMJ disorders completely. Dr. Davis can help you have a healthier and more comfortable jaw, but treatment takes time to be effective.

TMJ disorders develop for many reasons. Clenching and grinding your teeth  causes your jaw muscles to tighten and results in stress of the temporomandibular joint. You may have a damaged jaw joint due to injury or disease. Injuries and arthritis can damage the joint directly or stretch and tear the ligaments. As a result, the disk, which is made of cartilage and functions as the cushion of the jaw joint, can slip out of position. Whatever the cause, the results may include a misaligned bite and pain, clicking, or a grating noise when you open your mouth. You may even have trouble opening your mouth wide.

Do You Have A TMJ Disorder?

  • Are you aware of grinding or clenching your teeth?
  • Do you wake up with sore, stiff muscles around your jaws?
  • Do you have frequent headaches or neck aches?
  • Does the pain get worse when you clench your teeth?
  • Does stress make your clenching and pain worse?
  • Does your jaw click, pop, grate, catch, or lock when you open your mouth?
  • Is it difficult or painful to open your mouth, eat, or yawn?
  • Have you ever injured your neck, head, or jaw?
  • Have you had problems (such as arthritis) with other joints?
  • Do you have teeth that no longer touch when you bite?
  • Do your teeth meet differently from time to time?
  • Is it hard to use your front teeth to bite or tear food?
  • Are your teeth sensitive, loose, broken or worn?

The more times you answered “yes,” the more likely it is that you have a TMJ disorder. Understanding TMJ disorders will also help you understand how they are treated.

Treatment

There are various treatment options that Dr. Davis can utilize to improve the harmony and function of your jaw. Once an evaluation confirms a diagnosis of TMJ disorder, Dr. Davis will determine the proper course of treatment. It is important to note that treatment always works best when self-care is joined with professional care.

The initial goal of treatment is to relieve the muscle spasm and joint pain. This is usually accomplished with a pain reliever, anti-inflammatory, or muscle relaxant. In serious cases, steroids can be injected directly into the joints to reduce pain and inflammation. Self-care treatments can often be effective as well and include:

  • Resting your jaw
  • Keeping your teeth apart when you are not swallowing or eating
  • Eating soft foods
  • Applying ice and heat
  • Exercising your jaw
  • Practicing good posture

In additional to stress management techniques such as biofeedback or physical therapy, a temporary appliance known as a splint may also be recommended. A splint (or night guard) fits over your top or bottom teeth and helps keep your teeth apart, ultimately relaxing the muscles and reducing pain. There are different types of appliances used for different purposes. A night guard helps you stop clenching or grinding your teeth, reduces muscle tension at night, and helps to protect the cartilage and joint surfaces. An anterior positioning appliance moves your jaw forward, relives pressure on parts of your jaw, and aids in disk repositioning. It may be worn 24 hours a day to help your jaw heal. An orthotic stabilization appliance is either worn 24 hours day or just at night to move your jaw into proper position. Appliances also help to protect teeth from wear.

What About Bite Correction Or Surgery?

If your TMJ disorder has caused problems with how your teeth fit together, you may need treatment such as bite adjustment (equilibration), orthodontics with or without jaw reconstruction, or restorative dental work. Surgical options such as arthroscopy and open joint repair/restructuring are sometimes needed, but are reserved for severe cases. Dr. Davis does not consider TMJ surgery unless the jaw can’t open, is dislocated and non reducible, has severe degeneration, or the patient has undergone appliance treatment unsuccessfully.